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Head Shy, Chapter 11 (PG)
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Bandersnatch
Posted: 19 April 2010 - 03:28 AM                                    
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Here's some more for you, Campers. Enjoy.

Bander

-------------------


Ferris was on the phone at the nurses’ station when she saw Pete and MacGyver exit the elevator. She grinned, knowing the troubleshooter would probably have a few things to say about being made to use a wheelchair. It wasn’t until they drew closer that she realized something was wrong, her smile fading when she saw the current state of her patient.

“I’ll have to call you back,” she said, hanging up the phone and hurrying around the counter to meet them. “What’s the matter?”

“I don’t know. He seemed fine until a half hour ago,” Pete explained, worry clearly evident on his face. “I think it’s his head.”

It was obvious the young man didn’t feel well. Draped in his friend’s jacket, Mac sat slumped over with his arms wrapped tightly around his body. His face had gone a ghostly shade of white, and a slight tremor shook his lean frame.

Ferris gently removed his sunglasses and placed her hand against his cheek, the warmth of his skin making her cringe. “Don’t feel good, do you sweetie?”

“Not really,” he uttered quietly.

“Is your head bothering you?” she asked, dropping her hand to his wrist to time his pulse. It was strong, but fast; too fast for her liking.

Mac nodded and shut his eyes, the bright lights making the pain worse.

“All right,” she said, motioning to a male nurse behind the counter. “Let’s get you back into bed.”

Even with the wheelchair parked as close to the bed as possible, Mac still needed help getting into it. The mattress he’d found so uncomfortable had become heavenly, the plush material cushioning his sore, achy body. Chilled from the air conditioner, he welcomed the blankets Ferris pulled up over his shivering form.

“I’m going to look him over and draw some blood. I want to get his basic counts and start a blood culture. Doing it now will save time and the results could help us later on,” Ferris said to the nurse. “And grab an I/V kit too. I’d like to get him back on fluids.”

Having received his instructions, the nurse left with wheelchair in tow.

Ferris went to the sink and began washing her hands, already compiling a list of possible causes for her patient’s sudden symptoms. An infection was the most likely culprit, but where and to what extent would make all the difference.

I hope to god this is something simple… she thought, bumping off the water with her elbow and drying her hands. He was doing so well…what went wrong?
“You said he was fine until about half an hour ago?”

“As far as I could tell he was,” Pete replied, not leaving his friend’s side. “I mean he was quiet and a little pale, but he seemed ok. Plus the morning doctor had already cleared him, so I assumed he was fine. I guess I should have paid more attention to how he was acting.”

“Don’t blame yourself,” she said, taking her stethoscope from around her neck and plugging it into her ears. “I shouldn’t have left the decision to allow him outside to another physician. Especially one unfamiliar with his case.”

She slipped the metal disk beneath the blankets to listen to Mac’s heart and breathing. Both rates were noticeably elevated, but his heart was strong and his lungs clear. His blood pressure was up, as was his temperature, the aural thermometer giving a shrill beep to warn of a mid-grade fever.

“What do you think it is?”

“Probably an infection,” she said, pulling on a pair of disposable gloves. “We need to do a couple of tests to determine what kind though.” She began to unwrap the protective bandage around MacGyver’s head.

Startled from his doze, he jerked away with a groan when her fingertips lightly brushed the incision site.

“I’m sorry, Mac,” she apologized, troubled by the amount of pain such a light touch had caused. “I’ll be more careful.”

Being as gentle as she could, she finished removing the bandage, grimacing when she saw the source of his discomfort. The healthy, healing surgical wound she had seen the day before had become angry, red, and very inflamed. “Oh, yeah, this isn’t good.”

“How in god’s name did the morning doctor miss that?” Pete demanded, unable to believe what he was seeing.

Ferris shook her head, feeling even more at fault than before. “I don’t know.”

“He never checked,” Mac uttered, flinching as the doctor felt around the wound to see how far the swelling had spread. “He just asked me a few questions and read the chart. At the time I wasn’t feeling that bad, so he had no reason to suspect anything.”

Pete’s face flushed with anger. “It’s still unacceptable.”

“It’s also a shirk in procedure. I’m going to report this to the hospital supervisor. This isn’t the first time Dr. Griffin has missed something.” Ferris looked at the infected wound and sighed. “MacGyver, I’m sorry, but I really need to clean this out.”

The troubleshooter pulled a face and shut his eyes, not needing to be told how unpleasant it was going to be.

“I’ll be as quick as I can,” she assured, although she knew it came as little consolation. “And then we’ll let you rest.”

The nurse arrived with the items she’d requested and was quickly sent out for more. While waiting for him to return, Ferris drew off several vials of blood and began prepping his arm for an I/V.

“You’re doing better than I would be, Mac,” Pete said honestly, flinching enough for both of them as he watched Ferris slide the needle in place.

“He’s a trooper,” she agreed, securing the catheter with tape and joining it to the drip line overhead.

The nurse returned a few minutes later, a sterile cloth covered tray in his hands.

Ferris went to the sink to wash her hands again. “Pete, you don’t have to stay for this if it’ll make you uncomfortable.”

Pete felt Mac’s unnaturally warm hand close over his own in an unspoken request for him to remain. He knew MacGyver was a proud man, stubborn, strong, and independent. Asking for help for himself had never come easy, and the fact he was doing it now was an affirmation of their friendship.

“I’ll stay,” he said.

Ferris smiled. She knew the two men shared a close bond: more like a father and son than a boss and subordinate. She’d learned from experience that a strong support system often meant the difference between recovery and failure when it came to success in the medical world. Having observed the silent communication between the two men, she had no doubt as to the potential strength they could offer one another.

The cleaning and re-bandaging of MacGyver’s incision was far from pleasant. Despite the doctor’s best efforts to be gentle, the pain was bad, and the procedure left him shaking and soaked with sweat. Pete remained by his side, allowing his hand to be squeezed and crushed without complaint. By the time she was finished, both men were exhausted.

“There,” Ferris said, using a damp cloth to mop the sweat from her patient’s face and neck. “You made it. You’re done.”

Mac released the breath he’d been holding and sagged against the pillows. He’d experienced worse, but it certainly wasn’t something he wanted to go through again. He closed his eyes and focused on slowing down his racing body.

“Did it look as bad as you thought?” Pete asked.

“Yes and no. There’s a lot of swelling and heat, but the wound’s not draining. That may or may not create a problem down the road.” She retrieved two syringes from the instrument tray that she’d prepared earlier. “I’m giving him something to help his fever, plus a dose of antibiotic. We may need to change the type later on, but I at least want to get him started in the right direction.”

She administered both drugs through his I/V. “Best thing for him to do now is rest.”

The director sighed and stood reluctantly from his chair. Visiting time was over. “I’ve got to go, Mac. I’ll be back later on, I promise.”

“Pete?”

“You need to rest – and you can’t do that with me hovering around.”

Mac’s expression turned doubtful. “Pete, I’m…”

“Ah! Don’t say it,” Pete said firmly, speaking as much for his own sake as he was for MacGyver’s. “You’re going to be all right. This is just a little setback, that’s all. We’ll get through this. One day – one step at a time. Okay?”

“Okay,” he agreed, regarding him through a fevered gaze. “Whatever you say, boss.”

Pete smiled and patted his arm. “Atta boy. Now go to sleep and feel better. I’ll come by and check on you in a bit.”

Mac nodded and rolled onto his side, curling up against the deep ache that had settled into his bones.

“Poor kid,” Pete muttered, joining Ferris by the door. “I haven’t seen him this sick for… well…ever, actually.”

“If it gets too bad I can give him something for the pain, but I prefer to hold off on that as long as possible,” she replied, not having the heart to tell him that things had the potential to get much worse before they got better. If they got better…
“He’s not going home tomorrow, is he?”

“No. We’ll see how he does over the weekend. If things go well, he might be out by Monday or Tuesday, but probably not until midweek or so.” She saw the disappointment in his eyes squeezed his arm. “This is just a setback,” she said, repeating his own words back to him. “One day – one step at a time, remember?”

“Yeah, I remember.”

“I thought you might.” Ferris smiled. “Come on. I’ll get you some coffee.”

Following the petite doctor out of the room, he stopped for a moment and looked back at his friend. Satisfied to find him sleeping, Pete quietly shut the door and left, completely unaware of the trouble brewing just below the surface.

*

The morning routine of the ICU was eerily quiet in comparison to that of the Oncology ward. There were no TVs, radios, or healing spells of laughter. Just the ominous sounds of tolling monitoring equipment, hushed voices, and the occasional call for attention filled the halls of glass fronted private rooms.

Ferris had never liked working out of the intensive care unit, finding it too quiet and too depressing. Although many of the patients treated on the ward recovered and moved on, some did not. Others improved, but never fully healed, their bodies and minds changed forever. She’d been lucky during her relatively short career as a doctor, only having lost a handful of patients to their afflictions. Every time unforeseen circumstances forced her to admit a charge to the unit, she couldn’t help but wonder how much longer that luck would hold out.

A quiet groan from the bed alerted Ferris to her patient’s distress. She turned to find MacGyver trying to move onto his side, a feat made impossible by the extra monitoring equipment he now wore. The evening doctor had admitted him to the ICU shortly after midnight when his temperature sharply rose and he began vomiting, warning signs of an infection raging out of control. Franklin had given her the discouraging news when she’d arrived that morning, and she’d been at the troubleshooter’s side ever since.

“Easy, Mac,” she said, gently holding him in place. He struggled weakly against her hand before his strength gave out, an arm sliding down to hold his stomach.

A nurse stuck her head in the door. “Is everything all right, Dr. Harper?”

“It looks like his nausea is returning. I’d like to get another dose of compazine into him.”

“I’ll be right back,” the nurse said and disappeared to fetch the drug.

“Ferris?”

The doctor found glassy brown eyes looking up at her and smiled. “Hey, Mac,” she greeted, taking his hand and giving it squeeze. They had removed the plaster cast from his arm and replaced it with a soft splint, the material allowing his fevered skin to breath. “I’ve got something coming to help your stomach, okay? You’re going to be all right.”

“Where’s Pete?”

“He’s not here yet, it’s still a little early. He will be soon.”

Mac nodded and swallowed compulsively, his queasiness starting to build again.

Reading his discomfort, Ferris brought the emesis basin within reach. His stomach was empty, but the nausea continued, causing bouts of dry heaves that left him exhausted and sore. She knew there wasn’t much they could do for him at this point except give support and treat his symptoms. The antibiotics needed a chance to work, and until they did, it was going to be a very rough ride.

The nurse returned and administered the anti-nausea drug the doctor had ordered. “The desk also wanted me to let you know that Mr. Thornton is on his way down.”

“Thank you.”

“Pete’s here?” MacGyver asked, the medication already making him drowsy.

“He is,” she replied. “I need to talk to him first and then he’ll be in. He won’t be able to stay long because you need to rest, but we’ll definitely let him come say hi. How’s your stomach feeling? Any better?”

“A little.”

“Good. The compazine is starting to work. Are you going to be okay by yourself for a bit?”

“I think so.”

“All right. I’ll be back.” Ferris stepped out of the room and headed for the nurses’ station. She found Pete already there and waiting, the older man visibly keyed up and anxious about his friend. “Morning, Pete.”

“Ferris – what happened? The nurse up on the other floor sent me here – she said Mac is worse. What…?”

The doctor motioned for him to follow and led the way into one of the private offices. “Have a seat,” she said, although wasn’t surprised when he didn’t. She sighed and sat down herself, unsure where to begin. “Late last night, MacGyver became very sick. His fever spiked, and he began showing signs of shock. The evening physician made the decision to admit him to the ICU when they couldn’t get him stabilized.”

He looked dumbfounded. “I don’t understand. I mean he wasn’t feeling that great when I came to see him last night, but he wasn’t…” He shook his head. “What happened?”

“Pete, MacGyver has a staph infection. The lab results came back this morning.”

“What?”

“We’ll have to wait another 12 to 24 hours for the blood culture results to come back to know the exact strain, but he’s been started on a vigorous course of antibiotics to try and slow its progress,” she explained. “Dr. Brock Aspen has been put in charge of his case, and he…”

“Wait, wait. I thought you and Franklin were in charge of Mac?”

“Franklin and I are in charge of his neurological health. As far as his infection is concerned, Dr. Aspen is a much better candidate for treating it successfully. You’re still going to see us around, though, especially since the infection seems to have originated around his surgical incision.”

Pete numbly sought out a chair and sat down, his face a mixture of emotions. “This Dr. Aspen – he thinks Mac will be all right?”

“It’s too early to make a definite prognosis, but where MacGyver is young, strong, and generally healthy, Dr. Aspen is cautiously optimistic at this point. ”

“This is more than just a setback.”

Ferris nodded soberly in agreement. “Yes, it is.”

Pete sighed and looked down at his hands. “Can I see him?”

“You can, but the rules down here are a little different. You’ll be limited to two, fifteen visits a day until Dr. Aspen feels Mac’s strong enough for more.” She saw the disappointment on his face. “He’s very sick right now, Pete. And until the antibiotics start working, he has the potential to keep getting worse.”

“And here I thought I was taking him home today.”

“He’d like to see you, Pete,” Ferris said. “He’s been asking for you. Short visits are tough, but he needs your support now more than ever.”

He stood and joined her at the door. “Take me to him. Any amount of time is better than nothing.”

The doctor smiled and led the way to MacGyver’s room. “I know this is tough, and believe it or not, I have a difficult time in this place too. It’s hard to stay positive, but please try to for Mac’s sake. When you’re physically feeling down and out, a positive attitude can take you a long way.”

The director nodded. She’s right…this is hard.

“I’ll be out here if you need me,” she said and stepped back to allow him entry to the room.

“Thanks.” The first thing Pete felt when he entered his friend’s room was depressed. Smaller than his original room, the tight space was sterile and bare with its pure white walls and lack of windows. Machinery filled much of the space around and near the bed, some sitting not in use, while others blinked like Christmas trees.

He arrived at Mac’s side with his heart in his throat, the younger man surrounded by a confusing web of leads and lines. His pale face of the previous day had gone gray except for the dark patches beneath his closed eyes. Deep pain lines etched his fevered skin, an occasional bead of sweat rolling off onto the pillow. Multiple bags of clear fluid rained a steady stream toward the I/V catheters below, and a heart monitor quietly tolled in the background.

“You look miserable, my friend,” he uttered.

“I feel terrible.”

Pete hardly recognized his colleague’s voice, its strength and confidence replaced by weakness. He reached out and took Mac’s hand, his skin feeling uncomfortably warm against his own. “I’m sorry, MacGyver,” he said, unsure what else to say. Ferris said stay positive, but how is that possible when your friend looks like he’s…
He sighed and asked the first question that came to mind. “Are they treating you good?”

“Yeah. Service is fast and some of the nurses are kinda cute.”

“Is that so?” Pete chuckled; glad to see his friend’s sense of humor was still intact. “Well, get a few numbers and we’ll go out for drinks when you’re back on your feet.”

“You mean if I get back on my feet.”

“I don’t want to hear stuff that, MacGyver. I know you’re feeling pretty rotten right now, but in a few days things are going to be better. You’ve got a great team of doctors and modern medicine on your side working to beat back your infection. And I’m pulling for you too.”

Mac shifted uncomfortably on the mattress, his muscles aching no matter how he lay. “Ferris said your time was limited.”

“Per the orders of Dr. Aspen. They’ll extend your visiting hours when you’re feeling better. In the mean time, you can always call me if you get too bored.”

“That might just happen around here.” Mac replied sleepily, the simple act of talking rapidly depleting the little energy he had.

Pete saw his friend starting to nod off. “I’ll let you rest.”

“No. You can stay,” MacGyver said, opening his eyes with effort. “Please. I don’t mind, I’m just…Stay.”

He’s scared…Pete realized, although it wasn’t a word he generally associated with the troubleshooter. Hell, if I were in his position, I’d be terrified. He looked around and spotted a plastic chair tucked in the corner.

“Pete?”

“I’m staying – I’m just getting a chair.” He brought it over beside the bed and sat down. “There. That’s better. I’ll stay as long as they let me. Does that sound good?”

“Yeah – thanks.”

“No problem. Now go to sleep. Everything’s going to be all right.” He watched as MacGyver shut his eyes and tried to get comfortable beneath the light blankets. He would have gladly sat with the younger man day and night if meant his recovery, but he knew such thinking wasn’t plausible or reasonable.

Sighing, Pete looked around the room at the pieces of cold machinery meant to maintain, monitor, and regulate human life. Oh yeah… he thought miserably. Everything’s going to be just fine…

*

“You have got to be kidding me!”

“Pete, please calm down and listen…” Ferris began.

“No! I left here last night and Dr. Aspen said everything looked the same.”

“And it did! And it pretty much still does, but the lab results for his blood culture came back and now we know exactly what we’re dealing with.”

“First you tell me he’s got a staph infection, and now you say he’s got some super bug?”

“He does has a staph infection, it’s just a different strain then Dr. Aspen first thought.” Ferris sighed and pinched the bridge of her nose, her frustration starting to build into a headache. “Look, just sit down and listen. Please. I’ll tell you what I know and then answer your questions if I can. All right?”

Pete scowled, but did as the petite doctor asked. He was more upset than angry, and quickly becoming more frightened than upset. “Okay. What?”

“As I said before, the lab results for MacGyver’s blood culture came back this morning as being positive for methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA. It’s a type of staph bacteria that’s become resistant to many of the commonly used antibiotics – hence the nickname ‘super bug.’”

“Such infections can be fatal, but they can also be successfully treated with the right medication. Dr. Aspen has switched Mac over to an antibiotic called Vancomycin, which is used primarily to fight MRSA infections. It’s not an instant fix, and it’ll probably make him feel even worse for the first few days while his body adjusts.” She stopped and looked at the man seated across from her, trying to judge his reaction. Although his face was blank, she could tell he was listening and taking in all she had to say. “Do you have any questions?”

“Where did it come from?”

“We’re still looking into it. His room has been stripped and thoroughly cleaned – so far there hasn’t been signs of bacteria on any of the contact surfaces. It is possible that it came from one of the nurses during a bandage change. Unfortunately, we may never know for sure.”

“It had nothing to do with that ring he fished out of the sink, did it?” he asked.

“No. Even if the sink were harboring the bacteria, the infection wouldn’t have developed that quickly. The energy he expended in the process, however, likely contributed to its rapid onset.”

“How long before you know if this new medication is working?”

“Probably a few days. Vancomycin is like any other antibiotic in the sense that it needs time to circulate and establish itself within the body.”

“I suppose visitation will be cut back even more.”

Ferris shook her head. “Dr. Aspen didn’t say anything about that. The only difference now is you’ll be asked to wear protective clothing and gloves when you visit. A secondary infection at this point – even something as simple as a cold – could be fatal.”

The room fell silent, Pete lost in thought. He had so much going through his mind at once, he didn’t know what to respond to first.

“He’s in the best place right now,” Ferris said, seeing the indecision on his face. “The staff is well trained, compassionate, and devoted to their work. He’ll be watched like a hawk and kept as comfortable as possible. Anytime you want to know how he’s doing, just give the ward a call and they’ll be happy to tell you.”

“I’d rather be here with him.”

“I know you would, but for now you need to make the best of the time you do have. Keep things light and positive – a laugh never hurts.” She gestured toward the door. “Come on. I’ll get you some scrubs and you can go sit with him for a while. I think it’ll be good for both of you.”

With a heavy heart, Pete got to his feet and followed her out of the office, hoping some time with his friend would lift his spirits rather then diminishing them even more.

 
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Geekgirl
Posted: 19 April 2010 - 03:47 AM                                    
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So much for hoping for a simple cold or the flu....oh no, dear Bandersnatch had other plans for our poor Mac.... harhar.gif

Wow, is all I'm going to say. Great chapter - the interaction between Pete and Mac is great. Mac grabbing Pete's hand in a silent plea for his friend to stay. Mac wanting Pete and Pete understanding Mac's fear. Just great non-verbal communication between two friends. Wonderfully written.

Okay - now Bandersnatch, Mac will be getting better, right? This new antibiotic should help and he'll be back to his normal cheerful self getting a few of the nurses phone numbers in the next week, right? tongue.gif

 
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MacLovin
Posted: 20 April 2010 - 04:43 AM                                    
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Wow, that's rough. Brain surgery and then an infection! Poor Mac. I really like the interaction between Pete and MacGyver in this chapter.

 
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Bandersnatch
Posted: 20 April 2010 - 07:54 AM                                    
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QUOTE (Geekgirl @ 19 April 2010 - 03:47 AM)
...and he'll be back to his normal cheerful self getting a few of the nurses phone numbers in the next week, right? tongue.gif

Well, no promises about the phone numbers, but I will definitely make an effort to put Mac back together again.

More or less smile.gif

Bander

 
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Bandersnatch
Posted: 20 April 2010 - 07:57 AM                                    
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QUOTE (MacLovin @ 20 April 2010 - 04:43 AM)
I really like the interaction between Pete and MacGyver in this chapter.

Thanks smile.gif I've always been more of a descriptive writer over a dialogue one, but this story gave me some much needed practice. I think it also helps to have a couple of *very* solid characters already in place to start with -- something the core actors on the show did quite well.

Bander

 
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jaebird
Posted: 4 June 2010 - 06:10 AM                                    
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Awesome writing and great chapter! Hang in there, Mac! smile.gif

 
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